Maybe you’ve been eating increasingly healthier, plant-based meals or have switched to an entirely vegetarian (or vegan) diet. It’s natural to wonder whether your pets can reap the same benefits from plant-based food.
Given that dogs are omnivores, can dogs be vegetarian?
More specifically, can dogs eat plant-based meat? The short answer is no; it is not recommended for dogs to eat meat substitutes like plant-based meat. While these plant-based options may be suitable for humans looking to reduce meat consumption, they may not be dog-safe due to the ingredients and seasonings used to make them.
Most meat replacements are processed with a lot of sodium and fat, which can harm dogs’ health. In addition, spices like garlic and onion powder are used in processed meat products, making them incredibly unsafe for canine consumption. Garlic and onion are toxic to dogs because they contain chemical compounds that damage their red blood cells.
A lot of vegetarian meat substitutes also use cocoa butter, another toxic ingredient that can harm your dog. Cocoa butter is extracted from chocolate liquor, and as most dog owners very well know, chocolate can be fatal to dogs.
Can My Dog Be Vegan?
Perhaps the next big question related to feeding dogs plant-based meat is, “Can dogs live on a vegan diet?”
The issue of switching dogs to a vegan (or plant-based) diet has raised a lot of eyebrows and caused many heated debates on social media, with most animal lovers fervently arguing on the side of why dogs should not be vegan.
Let’s define some terms:
- Veganism in dogs and humans entails consuming only plant-based foods and abstaining from all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey.
- Vegetarians eat primarily plant-based foods but may consume some animal products like dairy, eggs, and honey.
The simple answer is yes; dogs can live on a vegan diet. However, this can only be done if it was specifically designed by a veterinarian or animal nutrition expert.
Some dogs have allergies or health conditions that may require them to eat mostly vegan food, but putting your dog on such a diet without consulting an expert first is not a good idea.
“Most dogs can do quite well on a carefully designed vegan diet that meets all of their nutritional needs. As a veterinary nutritionist, I use meat-free diets quite a bit to help manage various health concerns. The challenge is that designing these diets is not the easiest thing to do. While a number of commercial vegan and vegetarian diets exist on the market for dogs, not all of them are equivalent in quality.” – Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVIM (Nutrition)
Is There Evidence Supporting Vegan Dog Foods?
The idea of vegan dog food has been around for a while, but these diets’ effectiveness and ability to meet dogs’ nutritional needs have only recently started to be studied.
Contrary to the mainstream belief that dogs should only eat strictly meat-based diets, studies show that vegetarian or vegan diets can be highly beneficial to dogs. This remains true as long as they are nutritionally complete diets and contain all the nutrients and vitamins that dogs need to survive.
A study published in Plos One Journal reveals that “nutritionally sound vegan diets” are the healthiest, least hazardous dietary choices for dogs. Vegan diets also present fewer dietary hazards than raw meat, such as pathogens, nutritional deficiencies, and imbalances.
“Our study is by far the largest study published to date. It revealed that the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs are nutritionally sound vegan diets.” – Prof. Andrew Knight, University of Winchester, UK
Many owners look to switch their dogs to vegan food after trying many diet modifications. In some cases, health concerns such as food allergies, acid reflux, kidney problems, and obesity signal a need for a vegan diet switch.
For example, vet-developed and cruelty-free dog food brand Wild Earth features specially-tailored plant-based dog food balanced in protein and superfoods to support dogs’ nutritional needs. Based on feedback from dog owners on the company’s website, Wild Earth dog food reviews reveal that balanced vegan pet food can address and mitigate various health concerns such as allergies, food sensitivities, and digestive issues.
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Will My Dog Like Vegan Food?
Another thing that concerns a lot of dog owners is the palatability of vegan dog food. Fur parents are all too familiar with the struggle of buying expensive dog food, only for it to be snubbed by their beloved canine.
The good news is that dogs (and even cats) find vegan meals just as palatable as meat-based meals. In the same study at the University of Winchester, the researchers recorded cats’ and dogs’ responses to different foods.
Surprisingly, the study revealed that cats and dogs do not actually favor meat-based food over vegan options. This dispels the myth that vegan pet food is inherently unpalatable. In fact:
“…[The researchers] concluded that any apparent differences in interest levels may be due to other factors, such as level of satiety, or specific ingredients or processing techniques employed to enhance palatability. When considered overall, the results of our study, and others in this field, do not support the position that vegan diets have poorer palatability, or compromise pet welfare, when compared to conventional meat or raw meat diets.” – Study: Vegan versus meat-based pet foods: Owner-reported palatability behaviours and implications for canine and feline welfare
The Bottom Line
As long as they are balanced and nutrient-packed, vegan diets can support canine health needs. To ensure that your pup’s food covers all its nutritional requirements, consult your veterinarian before making significant diet changes.
With high-quality food, lots of love, and the occasional treat—there’s no reason why dogs can’t be vegans too!